Gene Dornink: Senate session comes to a close
It has been a productive week at the Capitol with many long nights and robust debates. We came to an agreement and passed budgets to fund our state’s needs for the next two years. Within these budgets are some great provisions that will make Minnesota safer, stronger, and prosperous.
Many provisions I authored were in the final budgets signed by the governor. We got funding for Bridges to Healthcare, which is a great program for our community. I was especially proud to see the Hometown Heroes bill passed, funding to keep our DVS locations open, and a variety of services for our Agriculture community kept intact.
The Senate also prioritized the safety of Minnesotans in the Judiciary and Public Safety Budget. This bill ensures that basic public safety needs are met. We made reforms to the front-end of the public safety system and sentencing, without defunding our police. We focused on improving protections for victims and making it easier to report crimes. There are changes to procedures for reporting within the National Guard, increased penalties for crimes against children, and a change in statute to close the “voluntary intoxication loophole” for victims of sexual assault. Keeping Minnesotans safe is the top priority for an elected official, and this bill brings safety throughout the state. As a major part of this bill, we honored Officer Arik Matson for his service to our state. I was happy to be a co-author on the bill named after him, which increases penalties for assaulting a Peace Officer, and I was glad to see it pass through the Legislature.
Another exciting budget item for Minnesotans is the significant tax relief we passed. Not only are there no increases to your taxes, but there are also nearly $2 billion in tax cuts. These aren’t going to only big corporations, but also to small-town mom and pop shops we know and love in our communities. Even after the last year of loss and hardship, the Democrats advocated for raising taxes. We said no. The tax budget prioritizes the needs of Minnesotans and the recovery of our state. We finally got PPP tax conformity passed by the entire Legislature, which greatly benefits our small business community who relied on this aid throughout the last year. I heard a lot about how important this was from our local communities, and I strongly advocated for it all the way through.
Last, but not least, after 15 months of operating under unilateral decision making, the Senate ended Gov. Tim Walz’s emergency powers. He tried to use this step as a negotiating tool for further demands, but we did not agree to his terms 15 months ago, and certainly did not agree to his last-minute demands. Minnesota is back to operating with three equal branches of government, something everyone should be very pleased about. The citizens, through their state senators and representatives, again have a voice in our state’s direction. Rest assured the Governor’s Emergency Powers will be a hot topic in our next session. We all agreed that at the beginning of the pandemic this was a positive step, but no governor should be able to use emergency powers as a tool to make policy “unrelated to the emergency.”
On Wednesday, July 7, 2021, the Senate adjourned sine die (with no further meetings this year), and just like that, my first session as your state senator is finished. While this year had many challenges between Zoom hearings and being a new legislator, I am proud of the work we were able to accomplish. Being on the ground at the Capitol and being the voice of our communities is truly an honor.
While session may be over, my work is not done. Now I will have the chance to stay in the district, meet with my constituents, and gear up for another session in 2022. I would be happy to hear from you on any legislative or local issues you may have! You can reach out to my office at Sen.Gene.Dornink@Senate.MN or call me at 651-296-5240.